Darren Webster delivered the goods to secure an immediate return to the PDC Pro Tour on the second day of Final Stage action at the PDC Qualifying Schools on Thursday, after WDF world No 1 Brian Raman advanced through the European event to claim a coveted Tour Card for the first time.
Webster – a two-time World Championship quarter-finalist – defeated two-time Lakeside champion and former Grand Slam winner Scott Waites in Thursday’s showpiece to retain his status as a PDC professional, having just relinquished his place in the world’s top 64.
The 53-year-old has been plagued by arm and back injuries over a tumultuous two-year period, and despite featuring among the world’s top 16 two years ago, he was forced to come through a stacked field in Milton Keynes to ensure his place on the Pro Tour in 2022 & 2023.
The former PDC major semi-finalist recorded wins over over Niall Culleton, Stu Wilson and Kai Fan Leung to kick off his Day Two campaign, before he averaged 99.82 in a 6-3 success over Welshman Mike Warburton to reach the last eight.
‘The Demolition Man’ eased past an under-par Shaun Griffiths to set up a semi-final showdown against World Youth champion Ted Evetts, and after accounting for ‘Super Ted’, Webster demolished Waites 6-1 in the final.
Waites claimed the opening leg of Thursday’s final, before Webster reeled off six consecutive legs to regain his Tour Card immediately, wrapping up victory with legs of 15, 14, 12 and 15 darts.
“I’ve been here for 20 years and I’m back!” said Webster. “I’ve gone from 0 to 32nd twice, nobody has ever done that and now I’m going to do it for a third time, trust me.
“Before Covid hit, I was 13th in the world. Suddenly it all went, I had tennis elbow and didn’t play for six months.
“In the last two months I’ve practised more than I have in two years, and in the last four days I’ve been doing three sessions a day on my own. I kept trying to keep totally in control of myself all day, and it’s paid off.”
Elsewhere, Belgium’s Brian Raman produced a remarkable comeback in the European Qualifying School’s Day Two decider, to secure his place on the professional circuit for the first time in his career.
The 25-year-old – due to be No 1 seed at the inaugural WDF World Championship this year – has previously competed on the PDC Development and Challenge Tour circuits, and now he’s poised to pit his wits against the sport’s elite following his exploits in Niedernhausen.
Raman progressed convincingly at the expense of Dutch duo Carlo van Peer and Maikel Mossou, before victory over his compatriot and World Cup finalist Ronny Huybrechts was followed by a 6-4 triumph over Radek Szaganski to seal his place in the last eight.
He then relinquished just three legs in disposing of Kai Gotthardt and Kevin Doets, before recovering from 4-0 adrift to defeat Dutch-born American ace Jules van Dongen in a thrilling final.
“I felt really confident all day long and I was happy with my game, but it was a tough final. I was 4-0 down and Mario Vandenbogaerde lost 6-0 yesterday, and I didn’t want to do the same thing,” Raman reflected.
“I was thinking that I had to do my own thing and try to win the game, and fortunately Jules missed some doubles. This is one of the biggest things I have achieved – a massive step. The real hard work starts now.
“I’ve got two massive years ahead now. I need to practice really hard now because there still needs to be a lot of improvement in my game to cope with the big boys in the PDC – but I know if I play my best game I can win some games as well.”
Both Waites and Van Dongen are well-placed on the respective Qualifying School Orders of Merit going into the final two days, following their impressive performances on Thursday.
Waites is joined by former Lakeside champion Richie Burnett, Mickey Mansell, Cameron Menzies and Jamie Clark on five points in the UK standings, with Evetts one of five players poised on four points.
Van Dongen is joined by Vandenbogaerde on seven points in the European standings, with Denmark’s Vladimir Andersen on six points, and a further five players sat on four points.
Fallon Sherrock is yet to register a point in the UK rankings, succumbing 6-5 to former BDO World Youth champion Joshua Richardson in her opener, having trailed 5-2 at one stage.
Four-time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton was beaten by Alan Tabern at the same stage following her strong showing on Wednesday, while two-time major winner Robert Thornton and 2012 world finalist Andy Hamilton crashed out in round two.
Meanwhile, in Niedernhausen, former Lakeside champion Jelle Klaasen suffered a chastening 6-1 defeat to Spain’s Toni Alcinas in his first-round clash, averaging just 70.
Multiple PDC event-winner Benito van de Pas also bowed out in round one alongside Cristo Reyes, with Christian Kist exiting at the second-round stage.
2022 PDC Qualifying Schools
UK Qualifying School Final Stage Day Two
Ted Evetts 6-3 Mickey Mansell
Darren Webster 6-1 Shaun Griffiths
Scott Waites 6-4 Dan Read
Jamie Clark 6-3 Mark McGeeney
Darren Webster 6-2 Ted Evetts
Scott Waites 6-3 Jamie Clark
Darren Webster 6-1 Scott Waites
European Qualifying School Final Stage Day Two
Lukas Wenig 6-2 Jimmy Hendriks
Jules van Dongen 6-5 Patrick van den Boogaard
Brian Raman 6-2 Kai Gotthardt
Kevin Doets 6-5 Daniel Klose
Jules van Dongen 6-4 Lukas Wenig
Brian Raman 6-1 Kevin Doets
Brian Raman 6-4 Jules van Dongen